Nicholas Pennza: Undergraduate Research Reflection

  1. Nicholas J. Pennza


    Undergraduate Research

    1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

         This summer I worked in a research Lab under the Biomedical Engineering department. There, I researched the properties of the human eye lens homogenate. This included wet and dry bench research techniques.     


    1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

    One previous view that changed is how research is funded. I had previously known that a researcher would apply to a university or another origination that may give them funding if they felt that a project is well thought out and productive for the better of science. What I learned is that receiving a grant is not that simple. What became apparent is that projects will only be founded if the information gained from the research will only interfere with an already profitable business.

    In addition, before my project, I liked to rushed my science projects to get them done as fast as possible. This aspect of myself was challenged during my project. I found that I had to stop worrying about how much time something took and let the science take as much time as it needed. This is something that has also seeped into my daily life after my project. I find myself being less worried about a schedule and allowing myself to give whatever challenge in front of me the dedication it deserves so that I can learn as much from it as I can.


    1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


    While working in my lab, I often had time to talk to my PI, Dr. Matt Reilly, and one of the PHd students. During that time, I got to know them better on an individual and professional level. Often, I was able to discuss with them their goals within their field of research and how they planed to get there. They were able to give me a first-hand insight into how grant can be applied for/received.

    In our lab, we research the characteristic of the eye lens that apply to presbyopia, a condition of the eye lens that all humans fall victim to around the fourth decade if life. However, we hope that our work could also be used to assist cataract formation research one day. What my lab superiors explained was that cataract surgery is the most profitable surgery in America. Because of that, major national non-profits, made up of many ophthalmological surgeons who personally benefit financially from cataract work, they very well may not fund any that could disrupt the very profitable business that is cataract replacements.

    As my PI says, “there is science, ethics, and someone in the middle who can make money.” I found it very disturbing that many scientific advancements may be halted in the same way research on cataracts can be. Its hard to think of that we could be living in a better world, but are not because if the politics revolving around money.


    1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

    My future goal is to attend a United States Medical school after my time here at OSU. In such, physicians need to be experts in the health care knowledge. A part of that will be scientific, such as skills gained from research. A second part of that is also knowing the local and national politics and how those impact the way health care professionals practice medicine. My STEP project give me a good first step into understanding both of those two topics.

    In addition, this also played into the transformation from the previous question as it challenged me think critically about my life plans and the previous schedule that I have lead out for myself. Working in the research lab has showed me that there are multiple paths anyone can take to get the results that they desired. Some paths may be quicker than others, but the longer paths contain many adventures of their own with plenty of skills to learn along the way.






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